Feline lower urinary tract disease, also known as Feline Urologic Disease (FUS), can strike fear into the hearts of the most experienced cat owner. It can mimic certain behavioral problems such as inappropriate elimination and urine marking; making seeking a veterinarian’s opinion a priority. FUS is the most common feline lower urinary tract disease. With symptoms such as urinating in unusual locations (carpets, beds, etc.), bloody urine, prolonged squatting and straining, and failure to pass urine even after several attempts it’s easy to see why FUS is one of the biggest feline health concerns of cat owners despite it only affecting 1% of cats. Feline inappropriate elimination, with symptoms such as urinating on carpets, rugs, beds and spraying vertical surfaces, may have behavioral and medical causes and is the number one reason cats are relinquished to shelters.
FUS is caused by the partial or complete obstruction of the urethra by a pasty or sandy material made up commonly of struvite crystals and mucous. This obstruction blocks urine from passing and may result in a distended and painful lower abdomen. A blocked urethra is a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention. The disease can progress quickly with symptoms of lethargy, lack of appetite and vomiting frequently seen. FUS can lead to irreversible kidney damage and death. Emergency treatment of obstructions may include the placement of a catheter (while under sedation) to relieve the obstruction and IV fluids to correct dehydration and increase urine flow. The sooner the blockage is detected the better the prognosis may be.
Veterinarians will often recommend low magnesium prescription diets for cats that have a history of or are recovering from FUS. Frequent urine tests to check for crystals will further help your veterinarian monitor your cats health and progress. FUS has a 50% to 70% reoccurrence rate so owners should be vigilant in monitoring their cats urinary tract health even after their cat recovers from FUS.
So, are there any steps that the concerned cat owner can take to promote good urinary tract health? Yes, though there is no guaranteeing that the disease won’t strike, there are a few things you can do to help encourage your cats’ health.
1. Keeping a clean litter box is perhaps the most important thing you can do to encourage health and proper litter box behavior. Some cats may hold their urine if their litter box is dirty. Daily scooping and weekly washing with a mild detergent (dish soap) is recommended.
2. The rule of thumb is that you should have one more litter box than number of cats you have. So, if you have 2 cats you need 3 boxes.
3. Encourage your cat to drink plenty of water. Provide your cat with clean and fresh water all the time. Multiple drinking bowls in different locations encourages drinking. Drinking fountains are helpful in coaxing your cat to drink more water as well.
4. Feed a well balanced healthy diet. Ask your veterinarian what cat food he or she recommends. Don’t feed fish, shellfish, cheese, vitamin-mineral supplements or table scraps without getting your veterinarians opinion first. These foods contain magnesium and may help in the formation of struvite crystals.
As always, you are the greatest asset your cat has to aide in the early detection of diseases. By bonding with your cat and observing his normal healthy and happy behaviors you are more likely to notice when these behaviors change and when a trip to the veterinarian is in order.